Preserving the past for the future at Wakefield Heritage Day
WAKEFIELD — Local historian and author Elizabeth Banks MacRury was in her late 70s when she helped establish the Wakefield Heritage Commission in 1993. In a fitting tribute to her historic preservation work, which includes nine books, including an extensive history of Wakefield, MacRury, now 97, was the first guest to cross the threshold into the antique working Union Blacksmith Shop following a ceremonial ribbon cutting held Saturday during Wakefield Heritage Day, held in Union's Heritage Park.
Approximately 100 residents and visitors turned out Saturday to help a small army of Heritage Commission members and volunteer model railroad builders celebrate Wakefield Heritage Day in Union. The event also celebrated the commission's 20th anniversary.
Among the guests were Jim Hall of Gloucester, Mass., who has family roots in Wakefield dating back to 1765. With camera in hand, Hall chronicled the afternoon's events that include the Freight House HO scale model railroad demonstration, 1902 Russell Railway Snow Plow tours, antique car exhibit, and families having fun enjoying food and music by local performer Jim Miller.
Hall said he was impressed by the Heritage Commission's work.
"They are bringing the past to the present, and that's a good thing," he said, adding that he is thinking about "adopting" for caretaking purposes a nearby local antique cemetery where his great-great-great-grandmother is buried.
Six more donations sought
The blacksmith shop, where a new wrought iron fence will be built for Turntable Park, was donated last year to the Wakefield Heritage Commission then renovated to working condition. It is the latest piece in preserving the roles of the railroad, the mills, timber and ice industry and related trades in Wakefield's historical puzzle. At the ribbon cutting, Wakefield Heritage Commission Chair Pam Wiggin said six more donations of $200 each are needed to cover the cost of creating the wrought iron fence to replace the chain link fence between Turntable Park and the railroad tracks by Lino's Restaurant in Sanbornville.
With real scissors in hand, she cut the ribbon with WHC member Snooky Shea, WHC alternate Cory Fothergill and blacksmith Bob McChesney at her side, then made way for MacRury to be its first guest.
"Beth was a member of the first Heritage Commission and was very instrumental in getting the Heritage Commission formed in 1993," said Wiggin. MacRury said it was not only exciting to see the progress the commission has made with the structures in Heritage Park, but that it continues to expand and preserve pieces of Wakefield's history such as the Grange Hall in the Historic District.
Wiggin said the expansion of Heritage Park should serve to put the villages of Wakefield on the map as a historical destination. The commission is working to get a directional sign from the state that would guide them to the park, which is already located on a designated state scenic route. In a parallel effort, the Union Village Community Association, directed by Richard House, is working on restoring the nearby Drew Mill and Dam.
Earlier in the day, Wiggin accepted a certificate of appreciation on behalf of the WHC from Selectman Charlie Edwards, who said he never realized the role of the railroads and mills to the town's history and growth.
"I'm overwhelmed – I can't say how grateful we are to the Heritage Commission. This is my first time here. I've learned how important the town was to the railroad. The Heritage Commission deserves an 'atta boy' at the highest level," he said.
Two presentations in the Freight House on the 1909 era Boston and Maine model railroad, one by Bill Gaver and another by Rich Breton, both expert model railway hobbyists, drew standing room only crowds.
Gaver described the historic research that went into creating the replica of the five stations that served the Boston and Maine line. Breton talked about the meticulous detail that goes in to building the station structures – such as the Mathews Station in North Wakefield.
The public can visit Heritage Park every weekend. Special events are scheduled at the Freight House in October and December.
The Northeast Regional Model Railroad Association conventioneers and public are invited to view the museum, model railway and other exhibits at Heritage Park on Oct. 20 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and again for the first Tour de Chooch on Sunday, Dec. 1, from 9 a.m. 4 p.m.
The Heritage Centre and Union Station are open weekends through August, Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m., rain or shine. Donations can be mailed in care of the Wakefield Heritage Commission, 2 High Street, Sanbornville, NH 03872, or call 998-0860.